Sleep and the Elderly


It is reported that sleep disorders affect nearly half of adults aged 65 and over, and are more common in women than men.

How much sleep do we need as we age?

Most adults need around eight hours a night to function properly, but individual needs vary. Some believe that we need less sleep as we age, however, in fact our sleep requirements stay constant throughout adult years. Changes to our sleep patterns are part of the ageing process, and quality of sleep tends to deteriorate. Also, natural changes in circadian rhythms in the body that coordinates the timings of sleep, may make older people feel sleepier earlier and wake up earlier the next morning. This may be the reason why daytime napping is common among older adults.

Possible causes of insomnia

Those in poorer health tend to have more sleep problems which can be a symptom of the condition itself or a side effect of prescribed medications. Problems such as restless legs syndrome, snoring and the increased need to urinate during the night can cause a poor night’s sleep, as well as issues such as stress, depression and dementia.

Some tips to help encourage a good night’s sleep:

  • Do not consume caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol 6 hours before going to bed.
  • Create a regular bedtime routine.
  • Stick to fixed times for going to bed and waking up.
  • Find time to relax before going to bed.
  • Maintain a comfortable bedroom temperature.
  • Minimise light and noise exposure in the bedroom.
  • Do not consume heavy meals at bedtime.
  • Avoid physical exercise up to 4 hrs before bedtime.